If It Clucks Like A Chicken

BY : pronker
Category: +S through Z > Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Dragon prints: 854
Disclaimer: I make no profit from this fanfiction set in the Star Wars franchise and using its characters and settings. I do not own Star Wars.

Title: If It Clucks Like A Chicken

Author: pronker

Timeframe: After Star Wars: The Clone Wars season five finale

Characters: Ahsoka Tano, Bo-Katan Kryze, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Rex, OCs

Summary: Ahsoka's adventures after leaving the Jedi Order involve politics, a new home and a new best friend.

A/N: It seemed a good idea at the time to continue "Couvade," whose ending featured Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bo-Katan Kryze as battlefield buds on Mandalore as they work through the planet's troubles. I started the story and wimped out eons ago. I've not seen season 7 of the show or The Mandalorian so this is definitely an AU, and it's been fun to prune long ago writing into something more postable. Dropping into the story thus far, Bo-Katan plans a meet up with Obi-Wan who has recruited Anakin to help their struggle and the two Jedi plus Rex are aboard a submarine, the Nautch. Bo adapts her plans.

Attempted the November 2020 Word Race on theforceDAHTNET; missed it by THAT much. :)

IOIOIOIOIO

It would be at the last minute that a Jedi turned up right before Bo planned to leave. It was just like their idea of everything in the Force's good time, blah blah, no rush, blah. Bo throttled down her swoop and then turned it off as the Togruta called Ahsoka Tano indicated a parley.

"Obi-Wan Kenobi sent me."

"General Kenobi! Where is he?" Of course Bo knew because she was about to rendezvous with him one hundred fifty kilometers away at the shore of the Southern Sea. It couldn't hurt to double check her intel with someone who knew him quite well. "Do you know for sure where he is?"

Ahsoka crossed her arms. "In a roundabout way. I was living with someone in Cocotown who General Kenobi surmised --- no, on second thought, he knew --- with whom I'd find shelter. He's good at that." A little more pique in her voice, and she would have sounded bitter. "He sent me a message that I could find some direction by joining your struggle against Maul and the ruling clique." She examined the nails on her right hand. "I thought about seeking a lapsed Jedi that I'd heard about on Bellassa, but changed my mind. You know how Obi-Wan Kenobi can negotiate."

There was new maturity on the girl's face, Bo thought, until Ahsoka rolled her eyes and huffed, "He was nice about it."

"I s'pose. So, he did what he said he would. He's a good ally." Bo looked Ahsoka up and down. "You'll do, too." Ahsoka didn't smile; only a lightening of her expression showed that she was relieved. Bo wanted to sell her on the Mandalorian way, but recruiting could be postponed. And besides, maybe looks were deceiving and the youth wasn't Mandalorian material. Better to wait; Vizsla had opened her eyes to the virtue of patience or maybe it was advancing age that did it. She didn't examine the difference too closely.

Bo switched on her swoop and hollered over the noise. She showed Ahsoka her map on aged old paper that was used only for the most precious, most important data. She noted that Ahsoka took it all in within two seconds. "I'm off to meet up with Kenobi. Hop on back."

Ahsoka did.

IOIOIOIOIO

The swoop sputtered to a stop, its larboard muffler quivering before falling off. Ahsoka and Bo leaped to the ground to stretch aching backs and legs.

"Better hide it."

"Sure." Ahsoka dragged tufts of grass and twisted driftwood over the machine, artfully arranging the bits to camouflage.

Bo grunted. "I'll recon." She dropped to her stomach at the skyline of the dune. With the macrobinocs clapped to her face, she took a look and then froze enough that Ahsoka felt it in the Force.

"What?"

"C'mere and take a squint at this, blocking the kriffing pier, kriffing right in the kriffing way, kriffit."

That looks like a tufa. There wasn't a tufa at this position on our recon maps. Something gargantuan twitched its feathered crest. This was no tufa, this was alive. Why did I think monsters only live in jungles? Aloud, Ahsoka said, "This thing must be over one hundred meters tall." She glanced at her companion, who was blankfaced. "We could swim out to a rendezvous."

Bo came back to life. "No. Bad idea. This bay has things in it, not just big things you can see, but earworms and toebiters and splanchrotters --- "

"All right, point taken."

The construction which was alive showed its vitality by settling down in an inelegant squat amidst a ring of boulders. It moved in jerky fits and starts as

Ahsoka scoped out the one hundred fifty-meter stretch between their position and the beast. Nonexistent cover. The beach was flat as the Temple's grand concourse or the desert surrounding Sundari.

IOIOIOIOIO

Think, Bo. What would Satine do? Bo ventured a comment. "Well. Come on, let's, let's ... " The Mandalorian stopped. The jetpack and blasters would be advantageous to deal with this creature, but then what if they didn't work? The thing could stomp them into mush or it could simply squat there on its nest as it ignored them. She didn't remember if this species were armor-plated in the spots that weren't feathered. Satine would have known. It was awe-inspiring in its size, but it was in the way of the pier and needed to find another spot to nest, if that was what it was doing.

"It's nesting," Bo decided to bolster her own courage by half. "It's going to be a real aaray to get it to move." We'll look like bugs to it, and I know it eats bugs.

"It's just a nest. It can build another."

"It may have eggs in it. Would you leave your nest?"

Ahsoka's generous lips turned down at the corners. "I already have."

"Don't turn dramatic on me." Bo considered, fingering her headband. "I can fly above it and use my blasters to goad it, and you can run in front of it with your Jedi leaps and bounds to lead it away long enough for us to rendezvous with Kenobi and his team."

"I'm not made of springs, Kryze." Ahsoka stared at the beast and Bo shivered in the nimbus of a Force probe. Abstractedly, Ahsoka offered, "I Sense it's a she and she's not laid any eggs yet. She's not particularly hungry, nor exactly curious." A frown puckered the white browline. "She's intent and protective. It's her first time for this." The light of common personhood returned to the large blue eyes, relieving Bo's own discomfort around non-humans, especially the Force-using non-humans. "So we may have a chance of success. It's" --- Ahsoka shrugged --- "at least fifty-fifty."

Build her up. "Kid, you are the one who can do this. C'mon, show me what you're capable of, like on Carlac. You were okay there, why not here?" Bo practiced her leadership skills. She clapped the Jedi twice on the back and met her eyes. Ahsoka might say different, but Jedi once, Jedi forever in Bo's book, even though Ahsoka would be living with Mandalorians if plans turned out well. "It's stupid, it can't think like you and me. Let's outsmart it."

"We don't need to hurt it." Ahsoka returned the gaze. "We don't. Remember that."

"Oh ho, the girl's got spunk! I like that in a Mandalorian."

Not gracing this comment with even a smirk, Ahsoka scouted the terrain. Goading the beast to a wooded valley to the northwest looked promising. That would allow the sub and her crew to be out of sight of the creature while the sub docked, but the best bet would be to drive her towards someplace familiar, like another stretch of beach. After punching in some data to the 'nocs, Ahsoka trained them on the northeast, where a headland jutted.

clickclackwhirrrr The device homed in to her specs, measuring the gap between headland and water, yes it would be wide enough, but only just, for the creature to pass through to the beach beyond.

"You distract it," said Ahsoka, "and I'll deal with it."

"Now wait, small fry. How?"

"You'll sting it like a soka fly, and soka flies --- "

" --- are known to drive people mad, but it's not a people." Bo put her hands on her hips. "Wait, can't you Jedi mind-trick it or make up some illusion that'll scare it off?"

"That would be simpler, but I just don't know how to affect something of its size. It wasn't in my training." And it never will be hung between them. "You sting it often enough and it'll move."

"All ... riiiight. Yes," said Bo. She removed her jetpack, adjusting dials, tweaking plastoid hoses and other things that she knew Ahsoka didn't recognize.

"It's so big," whispered Ahsoka, staring at the monolithic monster. "What is it?"

"That's an elasmot, kind of a small mythosaur, like this one on my arm," said Bo, rolling up her sleeve to flash her tattoo at Ahsoka before putting her jetpack back on. "Only it's got two legs instead of four, and we never hunted them in our past, we coexisted." At the Togruta's look, Bo chuffed, "It's not impossible, you know."

"And if they don't become trouble, your people simply let them be. That's very Jedi of you all, Kryze."

"Don't be insulting, Tano. Let's get this job done." Bo ran in place fifteen steps to limber up, then paused. "Sure you don't want to change places with me?"

"Huh?"

"You know, soka fly, and your name is --- "

"Please." Now she looked like any other teen to Bo, rolling her eyes at an adult's idea of humor. Good. She needs to be looser. Bo took a running jump and jetted off, tossing "Be ready!" over her shoulder at Ahsoka.

"Got your back!" Ahsoka yelled.

Bo waved and then blasted.

The elasmot rose to its feet to protect its own.

IOIOIOIOIO

Ahsoka sprinted into the creature's sight. She Sensed no malice or even anger; the creature simply was evading the soka fly, perhaps deciding in its dim mind that this place was infested with the pests. So what was she to the critter? A guiding light? Not something to be crushed in territorial fury, but a piece of bait, literal bait, such as food for a tiska worm. Ahsoka poured on the speed because each massive leg pumped the beast's body forward at a colossal rate, a galoomph of a stride which could overtake Ahsoka if she weren't careful. Anakin had drilled her to be self-aware in your surroundings, Snips and Master Obi-Wan intoned be mindful, young Padawan and so she calculated her speed to be enough to remain in sight of the thing. She did not dare to think of what would happen if it should pounce or break into a trot.

But no, it continued plodding as it ducked the zzziiings and zzzaps, the whitecaps dotting its claws as it made its way up the littoral landscape. Now and again the creature looked out to sea, cocking its head without breaking stride as if it sensed the sub out there, yet it continued. Bo's stinging blasters sounded as loud as Rex's armament. It was routine for the two of them now, after ten minutes and twelve kilometers from the pier.

The plan was working! Ahsoka would be exhausted by the time she pronked back to the sub, she projected, then berated herself for not being in the moment. Uh-oh. A flotsam of kelp tangled her left foot as she landed, she took precious split-seconds to unsnarl herself and then bounced aloft again as the beast gabbled to itself.

Ahsoka looked back when she landed. The creature's beak gaped, serrated edges meshing together and then apart as it champed its jaws. The thunder of its feet made the ground quake, and Ahsoka stumbled. The beak stabbed down three meters away with a boomcrack and adrenaline added natural fuel to her next leap towards the leaden skies.

Crack! Crack! Squawk! Now the female thing was sprinting, head down, her vestigial wings outstretched like an inept glider's --- it couldn't fly, could it? --- and Ahsoka poured herself into the Force. She bounced, she broadjumped, she highjumped as never before and then it was over. Quick as she had ever moved, Ahsoka sprang backwards when the tail feathers cleared the headland. She stroked the creature's red crest feathers as she skimmed over, tugging its curling plume of a tail to guide her drop and now she was on the ground behind it. Oh dear, the beast had experienced true fight-or-flight responses and had voided to lighten itself.

Ahsoka dodged a step out of her practical straight path to avoid the ordure. A beak speared sideways at her --- don't get mad you'll find a new nest like I did --- while the Togruta whizzed by, landing perfectly after broadcasting that observation to the creature. She streaked a few more meters back over ground she had just covered.

She waved at a fissure in the jutting rock formation as she ran by.

The rock splintered off, the first of many. Tumbling boulders the size of ten Ahsokas filled the gap between ocean and land. Ahsoka concentrated on the present moment as she spied Bo flitting away, a final squawk drifted over the barrier and the elasmot dissolved into the past.

Ahsoka broke into a tired trot. The nerve strain of being the target of a giant had worn her out.

IOIOIOIOIO

Bo greeted Ahsoka by patting the seawater-stained boards beside her. "Sit." They rested together on the pier until a periscope broke the waves.

"Right on time, according to you." Ahsoka stretched. "I'll bet that was Master Obi-Wan's doing."

Bo kicked her legs as she rubbed her hip, pondering the hiss of waves against the pilings. "You've known him long?"

"Years. I'd see him around the Temple sometimes when I was growing up, then he became my Grandmaster."

"Which is?"

"M-My, my former Master's former Master. 'Master Obi-Wan' is what I call --- called --- him, but I guess I don't need to call him Master now. It's going to be strange."

"Being with them again?"

"Yes. Don't expect to see any hugs, though."

"I never would. I know that much about Jedi."

Ahsoka gestured to the action before them. A monster machine arose, somewhere over 150 meters long and with no insignia, no sect or clan markings on it, altogether mysterious in its origin, except that it wasn't. Periscope, fantail, conning tower all streamed water as a hatch opened ten meters above their heads. She searched her memory for the protocol. "Permission to come aboard?"

"Move lively, then." The face that appeared and then disappeared quickly was as sour as the voice. Ahsoka and Bo scrambled on gray ladders slippery with wet to board the craft. Someone with a broad belly, skinny legs and huge forearms studded with tats stood at the bottom of the ladder. He had the look of a man at sea for scores of years. "Loblolly's me name. Welcome aboard."

Ahsoka wondered how proper words of welcome could sound lackluster, but she dismissed the notion when the hatch clanked shut above her and the dankness settled onto her bare midriff and shoulders. This was going to be a cold eight days unless she changed into warmer clothing. No. I can get through this. It would be good practice for her to enhance her body temperature using the Force, a continuous low glow of body heat. She was certain she could do it.

IOIOIOIOIO

Bo-Katan couldn't place Loblolly's clan or even species. While he led them to their quarters, his bow legs anchored his squat frame to the deck as if soldered on. "I be Captain," he rumbled over his shoulder as the three of them walked single file down the narrow companionway, "two Jedi be bunked in me ready room wit' their clone in me crew's quarters." He lumbered around a sharp corner while Bo memorized how many steps they had taken from the hatch. She caught up to him as he muttered, "Thee bist trouble, and if I'd a-know'd I 'ooden never a-went to the Duke's rally, so I swan, though I hates Spar with a purple passion, I do that."

Bo couldn't let this pass. "The Duke needs everyone if we want Mandalore for True Mandalorians, Captain. No matter what, we're grateful for your transport to Shuror. It's a long swim to get there."

The proffered humor bounced off Loblolly as he pointed to a small cabin without going inside. "Here ye two be. Six bells be dinner, don't ye be late." He trundled off at a pace more rapid than Bo projected for someone of his years and shape. There was something reptilian in his movements, like a Mandallian Giant teen she had seen once in the desert outside Sundari. Had some aberrant medico gen-enged him to pass as human? Ah, Satine was the one with high flying imagination, not her.

Bo-Katan Kryze led the Nite Owls and it would bode well for Ahsoka Tano to join the Mandalorians as a Nite Owl if Bo-Katan, as leader, could figure out the Togruta's motivations. It wasn't enough that Ahsoka drifted in her non-Jedi life like a toebiter looking for a good solid underwater rock to anchor to. A toebiter needed a base to, well, strike out from and bite toes when somebody waded near. Did Ahsoka have the right stuff to be Mandalorian? She certainly had the battle training for it.

She also had Jedi curiosity burning in her, like Satine's scholarly interest in history. 

Fierfek.

"Bo-Katan, why did your map show a southern sea but no northern sea?"

"The Northern Sea got burned away in one disaster that I think the Jedi caused, but don't quote me because my sister knew history and dates and stuff. Let's move along to the present. You and I ought to be proactive and seek Kenobi and Skywalker soon, what say?"

Aw, the girl's shoulders slumped. She was tired and a reunion could wait. "Let's not move too fast, Bo-Katan. I need to meditate."

"You still do that? Yeah, all right, so, tomorrow after first meal you and I will connect with them since we've got eight days on this tub. Let's grab some rest and skip dinner." Ahsoka sank into the bottom bunk and Bo let her. Come to think of it, she herself was tired. Strategy needed clear heads. Kenobi and Skywalker and their clone warrior had been cooped up on this bucket for over a day, knew its routine and had an advantage. She would give Ahsoka the same chance to replenish energy as she would one of her own Nite Owls.

It was unlikely anybody would disturb them, but Bo locked the door anyway.

IOIOIOIO

First meal was as awkward as Bo had imagined it. Upon seeing each other, the two Jedi plus one resembled three Jedi as Kenobi, Skywalker and Tano bowed to each other with hands clasped and fingers enlaced. Naturally, there were no hugs and not much conversation beyond "You're looking well" or "Good morning."

Bo contented herself with a terse, "Hi, Kenobi. Conference after eating?"

"Why, of course." It was Skywalker who replied, all his attention on Bo and none on Tano. This wasn't going to be a problem, was it? Grudges held, limited interaction, possible personal fireworks at a crucial battlefield moment?

The food seemed nutritious and that was all. A half dozen crew members held to their own table, gobbling nourishment like there was no tomorrow and then drifting off to duty. Loblolly probably did like Bo did at times: eat separately to avoid intruding on Troop Space.

Bo took charge as she observed Kenobi and Tano establish unspoken rapport, something to do with steady looks and probably mind melding or whatever Jedi weirdness she didn't want to learn about. "Skywalker, I'll update you with what Kenobi knows. Let's not bore Tano and your pal, all right? Follow me to my cabin. Kenobi, you and Tano come when you're done."

"Very well." The three Jedi answered as one while Bo told her face not to smirk.

IOIOIOIOIO

Ahsoka shouldn't have felt such relief at Anakin's departure, but she did. She settled next to Obi-Wan on an uncomfortable plastoid chair where Anakin had sat quite close to his old Master. She scootched the chair apart more. Caution and a yearning to connect with her former Grandmaster prompted her next words.

"Obi-Wan, may I speak with you in The Tongue?"

Obi-Wan smiled. "I think you're still allowed. Continue, please do." He reached as if to chuck her under the chin as Anakin would have done years ago. She halted, eyes wide, and then grinned at the same time he did. Of course, he was teasing her. He'd not do that now. I am far too mature for it. He realizes that, even if Anakin doesn't.

Ahsoka straightened her shoulders. "I am going to end our Imprinting, and I want to practice, erm, I mean start, with you." The Tongue was a combination of finger movements, eye blinks, and monosyllabic mutterings, and it came back as naturally as if she had had someone with whom to finetune her ability in the past year.  

She didn't know why she wanted to do this now. It was a technique for Jedi communication under duress. Was she afraid of losing her touch? Who would she ever have to do this with again, anyway, when she lived with Mandalorians? Was she under duress and forced by circumstances to accept Bo-Katan's offer? The one surety she'd felt rock-solid about had been leaving the Order, but afterwards came decision after decision. 

Life had not been easy.

Obi-Wan bowed in his courtliest fashion. "Ah yes, you and I and Anakin Force Imprinted when we first met on Christophsis so he and I would not lose track of you. I haven't used it on you for years and Anakin knows how to shut it off when I try with him." There, there, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka wanted to say, he goes off for days sometimes and neither you nor I know --- knew ---  where but neither of us can change him. He has his own path to follow.

Obi-Wan gathered himself after a nostalgic sigh. "So you're ending it formally. I'll guide you this one last time because it's not difficult." He stood stock-still. The Tongue may look awkward to commoners, thought Ahsoka, but as she blinked in code and watched him comprehend, she thought that she had never seen Obi-Wan look ungraceful. She stepped as close into his personal space as she had when beginning the Force-Imprinting and it was as if they danced without embracing as they swayed together. 

Ahsoka felt confidence seep into her as she stood figuratively under Obi-Wan's wing.

She touched his cheek with splayed fingers. "We didn't touch in its beginning, but I want to now.  Help me?" The last two finger gestures were as basic as The Tongue got because they were the root of a plea from one Jedi to another. She lifted her white brows, widened her eyes, and drowned in his gaze that was completely different from the manner that he looked at Anakin. He was looking at her in a reassessing way, but she didn't want to take the time to analyze it. Her new life was waiting.

He had led her to it.

Obi-Wan pressed his hand over hers and nodded. "Let's begin." He became all scholarly in that way he had that Ahsoka used to giggle at. She didn't now. "Of course, in the battlefield, we'd simply take a few seconds to disengage ourselves from a triad, duad, or group Imprinting, but that can turn out to be quite the wrench even if it's brief. We aren't charged up with battle adrenaline at the moment, so we'll feel it all the more." His voice deepened. "A slow hand is called for, young one."

"All right." Ahsoka trickled a tendril of the Force into Obi-Wan, feeling him out. He responded with a shiver, and his forelock shook away from its hairdressing as he extended his own tendril. Where they were standing must have resonated with their Imprinted ley lines on Mandalore because it felt as if the deck rippled in a sine wave.

Ahsoka quivered. From binding the galaxy together and these two Jedi in particular, the Force took it upon itself to squeeze them even tighter together before letting them separate. Obi-Wan hyperventilated and Ahsoka swayed on her feet, and then the Imprinting frayed and faded to a single thread as the fractals splintered. In the Force, Obi-Wan asked a question as the magnetic lines dimmed, too.

"N-No, leave it, please, Master Obi-Wan. We three won't be together on this planet like this ever again, and I w-want to have something to remember you by." The Force thread shimmered once and turned translucent. Ahsoka couldn't See it anymore, but she knew it was there, like a scar that showed pain and growth and healing.  

Obi-Wan took her hand from his face, squeezed her fingers as he brought them to his lips and then let her go. "I've never felt that before, Ahsoka, with anyone else I've ever Imprinted with on missions, Garen, Siri, or, or Qui-Gon."

Never?  Even though you're a Master of outstanding repute and on the Council? "It was intense. And, and ---" Ahsoka knit her brows "--- if was like this breaking up with you, what will it be like with the Chosen One?"

Obi-Wan flicked his forelock back into submission. "You'll manage, Ahsoka. I have confidence in you. Besides, ending Imprinting is the exception that proves the rule."

"What rule?"

"The rule that insists it's easier to get someone into your life than to get them out."

IOIOIOIOIO

"Anakin, you're as calm as a ferret."

Not even ocean depths dampened Obi-Wan's wit. Anakin thought his jaw couldn't drop any farther as he and Obi-Wan waited outside Bo-Katan's cabin, but he was wrong. "You cannot be serious! You expected me to take the news that outsiders know that you're a father calmly? When Kryze acted like she had been in on it forever, I nearly joined the Force right in the middle of our briefing. What could you have been thinking?"

"I suppose I wasn't thinking; I was hoping." Obi-Wan peered through the door as a thermostat clicked and a fan turned on briefly before stopping with a frazzzzzzl. Ahsoka poked among the wiry guts of the long range encrypted receiver at Bo-Katan's direction while Bo-Katan consulted a padd. Both padd and receiver had snuggled cleverly underneath the jetpack that now rested against one wall or, Anakin supposed, he ought to call bulkhead.

Anakin paced some more as the fan came to life once again. "So this Bo-Katan Kryze knows, and of course Korkie knows. Who else?"

But Obi-Wan knew him too well to overwhelm him with details all at once. He unpeeled several layers of the news he had broken to Anakin twelve hours ago. "Korkie's friends, and the Mandalorian faction that supports augmenting any current Mand'alor with a member of the nobility such as the Duke. Our mission to Shuror with Kryze representing her group will cement the pro-Mand'alor factions to the best of Jedi ability." A beat. "The Council does not know."

"They won't get it out of me, Master."

"I'll tell them at the right time." Obi-Wan stroked his lightsaber. A bead of sweat ran down his forehead. "I told you first of all Jedi."

"Master, I understand." The cooling fan would take a few more minutes to perform optimally in this section of the Nautch. Anakin worried that Ahsoka might become chilled and then pushed the concern from his mind.

He stood closer as if the unrelenting pressure of the blanketing Southern Sea squeezed his voice into a murmur. "So how does it feel to be a father?"

Obi-Wan looked pensive while Anakin projected himself onto his former and forever Master. Obi-Wan would jab Anakin, it's always feelings with you and directly after that his innate Jedi honesty would riposte but this time, you're right on target. "Stunning. Marvelous. Sobering. It's been a week and I'm still processing. I could go on and on."

"Now let me get this straight. You support your son asserting his inherited power and position, why? Is it because you know you're the best one for the job or for more personal reasons?"

Obi-Wan had his mouth open to reply when Rex returned from the 'fresher. "Generals. Comms still AWOL, eh?"

"You know the Grand Army of the Republic, Rex, hurry up and wait." Rex had stowed his armor someplace and to Anakin appeared almost a civilian. It was disconcerting. "Think you can lend them your expertise?"

"I'm not up to your mechanical genius, sir, but if you want me to try, I will." Good old Rex, picking up on the confidential vibe that Anakin supposed he and Obi-Wan streamed into the recycled air. The two Jedi observed Ahsoka's bright smile at Rex's approach as she continued following Bo-Katan's instructions.

Loblolly rolled by with an excuse why he couldn't sit in on the conference. "Oh, you mammals,"  he rumbled when they told him about the comms glitch. Anakin and Obi-Wan exchanged dubious looks as the captain waddled out of sight.

"We only need him to drive the ship," Obi-Wan offered.

"I think they call it a boat, but never mind. Ahsoka waved at us." Obi-Wan entered the cabin first and Anakin locked the door behind them to stand guard at parade rest. Bo-Katan and Ahsoka had grabbed plastoid seats from the mess hall, or whatever the naval term was for it. The ring of snooty boxes from Galaxies Opera House was what Anakin thought of when Rex, Bo-Katan and Ahsoka sat together in a row like chums, leaving three seats empty on the right. Obi-Wan and Korkie prepared to perform a duet, separated by not that many years in age. When Korkie appeared, his image on the screen that leaned against the back of a seat would make him appear the height of a five year-old. That was sort of cute, when Anakin thought about it. The screen zzzzred alive.

How strange it was to behold a giddy Master. "Ah, there he is!" 

Anakin faced Korkie on screen along with Obi-Wan, whose aura glowed extra bright. As diplomatic pleasantries began, Anakin concluded that both these men excelled at them. He half expected the two to suggest co-hosting a formal tea dance when the current unpleasantness was over. Obi-Wan introduced Anakin, who bowed with an immodest flourish of his cloak but maintained his silence. 

As everyone else clustered around the dedicated comm unit, Anakin rehearsed his answer to what Obi-Wan was certain to ask later in the privacy of their cabin: Well, Anakin, what about him? "He resembles you, I think. He's a leader, he's, oh, adequate in the looks department and he'll go far. I like him."

And Anakin did. The boy appeared healthier than in the staticky holo from the wrist mounted unit that Obi-Wan had shown him after the great reveal. The boy --- no, the man --- displayed maturity that the death of his mother after Korkie's failed rescue attempt must have deepened. 

Anakin could relate. 

Eh, the fussy jibberjabber ended and the conference began. Obi-Wan stood one meter to the left of Korkie within the Duke's line of sight. Two dimensional communications on a foldable half-meter square screen skewed Anakin's assessment of Mandalore as a society fit for joining the Republic. Oh right, Mandalore wanted to fight the galaxy alone or as they put it, remain neutral. 

Temple political classes had always bored him silly.

Obi-Wan swiveled back and forth between his audiences remote and present. "As you know, the world's leadership remains split in two between so-called Mauldalorians theoretically headed by Almec, which include many Death Watch, and a rebellious splinter group of Death Watch now headed by Bo-Katan Kryze. Kryze's membership fluctuates due to independent stragglers joining, therefore I cannot give you firm numbers of what our total strength will be versus what we are up against."  

The inimitable Kenobi sigh. "Five thousand, two hundred thirty-one is as close as I can estimate. I am sorry." Anakin masked a grin by practicing the Jedi hand sign for I can't believe this osik. "Jedi are mandated to install and support as necessary a third option to rally the Mandalorian people." 
Anakin knew this already so he focused on observing others' reactions. "The third option is a coalition government between the current Mand'alor" --- Mand'alor the Unsinkable Spar, muttered Bo --- "and the Duke of Mandalore, Korkie Kryze."

"So Her Duchessness had a kid and what, kept him undercover until his world needed him most?" asked Rex. "That's long range strategy I can get behind. Oya, Satine." Rex, m'man, this is why I like you.

Bo-Katan broke in, "Yes, she did well. Onward to the present, Kenobi. Besides you and Skywalker, how many troops does the Republic intend to dispatch to Mandalore?" Kryze, I'm coming to like you, after a fashion.

"The entire 501st Legion."

"Just one?" Bo-Katan likely intended no insult, but four inhabitants of the cabin stiffened.

Anakin broke his silence. "One good one is all it will take."

"I vouch for them, Bo-Katan," added Ahsoka. "They'll do the job."

Korkie nodded. "Mandalore is grateful." He cleared his throat, ready to say his part.

knock knock knock 

Heads whirled as Anakin spun the door's lock open to confront the unknown. He blocked any outsider's view of the cabin but when he saw who it was, he shifted aside. "Captain, is there an emergency?"

Loblolly topped Anakin's height by the span of one of his broad palms. The captain made as if to push through as he glanced over Anakin's shoulder at the Duke of his world. Anakin held his ground and the captain paused. "I changed me mind. Let me in."

Bo-Katan pussyfooted to stand directly behind Anakin, who Sensed her amusement. "Why not? It's your boat, you're entitled, there are no secrets on my watch. Come on up front. Skywalker, you sit, too, if you would. My nephew excels at handling audiences. He nabbed first prize at Mandalore's planet wide forensics tourn--- "

"Please, Aunt Bo!"

"All right, all right. Go ahead, Captain. Say, is there any way to lower the temp on your boat?" Bo shrugged out of her jacket and Anakin caught a flash of her tattoo. An impressive bicep and tricep guarded the soft underbelly of the left upper arm where a stark mythosaur skull glowered. She lowered her arm but Anakin filed away the image as he perched on the uncomfortable seat.

The other unoccupied seat creaked as Loblolly settled in. "We be a-working on it. Go on."

Korkie addressed the five beings soberly. "The New Mandalorians need a better name than my mother sponsored. It is in order for us to change our name because it makes our government seem as if it disregards our past, and we don't. We also don't want to foster the illusion that we assume we are better than our elders. We know that we are not." Korkie flushed, the amazingly human Kenobi flush. "We are different. We march ahead in peace because our people can learn how to be self-reliant in the Outer Rim and we need the Republic to stand beside us because like it or not, the Republic dominates us in its hegemony because of the war." Anakin heard teeth grinding and bet it was Bo-Katan. "And we want it to because the Separatists would only crush us. When I am acknowledged Duke, I will propose that we call ourselves --- "

"Why be the reason we follow ye?" Loblolly's narrowed eyes said volumes. Obi-Wan kept still, Anakin saw, though the Force shimmered around him as if to contain scathing energy. He reminded Anakin of a droideka with their curves of blistering power protecting delicate, deadly machinery.

Korkie ran a hand through his light scruff of beard. "I've not heard it said that the graduates of the Royal Academy of Government are inept at governing."

"Thee bist a sprout." Loblolly looked left and right as if to gain support. "Spar will mop up the deck wit' ye."

"My mother the Duchess led her world from her teen years as she ran for her life from insurgents. She lived for Mandalore and I can do no less. I will fight until we win our peace to go on with her ideals."

Loblolly hissed like a krayt dragon right before it spat venom. "Thee bist plucky, I give ye that much. Ah, Mandalore tides be a-changing and Loblolly, he goes with the flow. Continue."

IOIOIOIOIO

The meeting ended like all meetings did as beings drifted into pairs to chat. Loblolly left immediately, but Rex leaned from his chair into the vid screen to speak quietly with Korkie. Bo supposed that the youth couldn't help puffing his chest out at receiving the attention of a grizzled war veteran. The ad'ike needed bolstering after defending the claim to his title against Loblolly. 

Bo meandered into Obi-Wan's orbit as Ahsoka gestured Anakin to follow her into the corridor. Ahsoka's quick mind absorbed every conference detail without questions.

Bo approved of Ahsoka more and more.

Obi-Wan stacked the chairs prior to carting them back to the dining area. Bo decided to feel content with the meeting's progress. Step One, complete, now for Step Two: let down her hair with her ally to distract him from staring at the departure of Ahsoka with Skywalker. She pulled off her headband to pat sweat from her brow. "Gev, Kenobi, with the chairs."

"Hm? Very well." He did that thing she figured was a nervous habit. His beard would suffer if he stroked his jawline any harder. She pulled the hand away and slapped its wrist before lolling against the tower of stacked seats. The stack wobbled, she lost her balance and Obi-Wan steadied her. They moved away from the stack towards the door that Ahsoka and Skywalker had vanished through.

Uh oh, intervention time. 

"Ahsoka strutted her stuff right before we boarded the sub, Obi-Wan. She faced down a giant." Bo planted herself in her cabin's corner the farthest away from the clone and his screen conversation with her nephew. She forced Obi-Wan to look at her if he wanted to continue interacting and to his credit, he allowed both his son and his former Grand-Padawhatsit to deal with life on their own terms. The onboard temp stayed uncomfortably warm and she fanned herself, not envying Jedi layers of clothing. Ahsoka's breezy apparel was just right.

"She could do it if anyone could. A giant what?"

"Chicken." Elasmot would take too much explanation. "We teamed up for action and I like her style. She's doing all right. What would you change about her?" He must have been affected by the heat, too, because his face turned peevish.

"I'd like to get her out of those clothes, for one thing."

He was so easy, so kriffing easy. "Master General Sir Kenobi! She's far too young for you, I mean, I realize that you Jedi do things differently in that regard but in all decency, man --- "

"Shut up, Bo-Katan. You know what I mean. She's trotting about in impractical apparel more fit for the Alekie Island beaches on Wielu." He snorted. "She probably rebelled against us adults like all teen Jedi, but honestly, to return to the skimpy garment top that she wore at fourteen Standard when she knew next to nothing about, erm, about --- "

Bo supposed he lumped her in with 'us adults' and didn't much like it. She planned to befriend Ahsoka, who owned training for war plus invaluable Jedi skills. Ahsoka had weathered a bitter end to another friendship that Obi-Wan and Skywalker hinted about, blast their secretive secrets over internal Jedi messes. "Well, I know about, erm, about, what it's like to be an eighteen Standard girl and yeah, rebellion is what you call it."  

Her ally was upset, however slightly, and she needed him to concentrate on the mission for the good of Mandalore. Satine would have wanted him to. "So let her wear what she pleases and live where she wishes. Look beyond the seeming. She wants to help our cause, she's good at what she does and she's leaving the Jedi nest for mine." She swayed her hip into his hip and poked his arm. "Let her fly, Jedi."

"I suppose she will, if you give her a jetpack." Rex left the meeting with a So long, Your Grace! called from the cabin door. "Pardon me, I must say goodbye to him."

"Your son? Sure, go ahead. I'll give you two some space and walk through an escape route in case this boat springs a leak."

"Agreed."

IOIOIOIOIO

So Ahsoka planned to petition to re-enter the Order, just like he had hoped, no he had supposed she would. Life without shelter on Coruscant would be even tougher than life on Tatooine because whatever happened, he knew that his fellow slaves had his back. As Ahsoka strode ahead of him some meters down the corridor before halting, he rehearsed how he would respond to her plea. "Are you done with your teen rebellion, Ahsoka? Are you? Because I could really use your help."

She would defend herself, naturally. "I wasn't --- "

He would deliver the coup de grace before caving in to her request. "Hurry up! Finish rebelling! Three, two, one .... now!"

The Force crackled between the two of them as Ahsoka stopped at the deserted access hatch ladder. She appeared contrite, Anakin thought. Good.

"Anakin, I want to end our Force-Imprinting. Can we do it here?"

"End it?"

"Yes, because when we reach Shuror I'll be leaving to join Bo-Katan's group although we'll see each other for a while but we'll all be too busy to --- "

"You're joining them."

Puzzlement replaced contrition. "I think it's best to end it when it's quiet. I already ended it with Obi-Wan."

"Did you now."

This wasn't rebellion because there was no longer anything to rebel against. Ahsoka was gone for good. Confusion on her face preceded a simple concession from her lips and how Jedi was that? "Anakin, this can wait. Let's try another day."

"Now works for me, Ahsoka." A storm brewed inside him and he didn't know where or when it would break. He centered himself with long practice.

"All right, Anakin."

She would never call him Master again.

"Ah, there you are!"

Obi-Wan, it was always Obi-Wan to the rescue whether he was a Knight or lowly Padawan. How many times had they saved each other now? "Master, Ahsoka and I will end our Imprinting today, here."

"So I Sense. May I join you?"

"Why?" came from the two of them.

"For practice. I'm thinking of taking on another Padawan."

IOIOIOIOIO

That was a white lie and a plausible one. Obi-Wan stepped into the resonating breathless shock from one friend and calm acceptance from the other as he moved physically closer. Ahsoka was full on Learner now, Obi-Wan saw, as he tried not to feel wistful. Those days were gone forever. But we would take her back, if she wished it. He observed-without-looking. 

Ahsoka appeared well-fed and alert, outrageously expressive blue eyes bright and clear. Her montrals higher, their length trailing farther down her back, she was maturing beyond either Anakin's or his reach, and that had little to do with the Jedi Order. She was affected by and learning from life outside, from commoners. 

He and Anakin had done their utmost to give her roots and wings.

"I would have taught you how to do this had you stayed in the Order, Ahsoka." Anakin was trying for Jedi dispassion, Obi-Wan could tell.  

Obi-Wan couldn't stand it. He had to speak. After all she had been through with Barriss, Ahsoka did not need guilt. "Ahsoka, I will give you this instruction for the Shuror mission and, and any future situations." Obi-Wan managed a smile. "Young one, your life is out there." He gestured broadly to the galaxy before he faced her straight on. "I know that." 

He prepared himself to teach, centering and breathing as he had since Yoda's lessons in the synergy of instructing others.

Ahsoka's montrals perked to sharp peaks, then relaxed into their slight outward points. "Thank you, Master Obi-Wan."

"Just 'Obi-Wan'."

"Ahem. Ahsoka, watch and learn from Obi-Wan and myself." A meaningful look at Obi-Wan, as if to say 'let me teach her once more.' "And Obi-Wan, you and I may as well end our own Imprinting at the same time."

Oh-ho, so Anakin was taking over because he knew this Imprinting final kata as thoroughly as Obi-Wan did. Obi-Wan gripped Anakin by his elbows, entering his former Padawan's personal space by a factor of one half. Anakin mirrored the action as he dropped his shields to bare minimum and Obi-Wan followed a moment later, swaying on his feet, left right left right now in.  

IOIOIOIOIO

Ahsoka Sensed that they both learned this before she was in the picture, before Christophsis. She bowed to her need of the Force before she swayed and breathed heavily in their wake as best she could. 

This was going to give her a sore throat, she just knew it.     

Never forgotten, the aroma of Anakin's aftershave washed over her montrals and they twitched. It had been over one year ago that Barriss had pointed out their new heaviness plumping with enhanced sensitivity, right on schedule for a young Togruta. Obi-Wan's scent flooded in with his ex-Padawan's in subtle undertones as she struggled to contain her sensations as a proper Jedi should. Her belly tightened and eased with an unsettling rhythm. She clung to the image of herself free and independent and yet she staggered.

"Young one."

"Yes, Obi-Wan?"

"Open yourself wider."  

"Yes, Mast---   erm, Obi-Wan."

Ahsoka shifted her stance as she lowered her shields to minimal. She panted. She crossed her arms because she feared touching the Chosen One as she had Obi-Wan. Lights and colors red yellow blue flashed behind her eyelids as input pulsed from her montrals' sensitive pathways to her conscious mind. Anakin's Force signature blazed as incandescent as ever and she concentrated on her own perceptions through his gale of power that was buffered by a steady zephyr of peace from Obi-Wan. 

Ley lines from the seabed uncounted meters below burst upon her like crystalline fractals as they solidified to a magnetic map. She and Anakin remained fiery stars upon the map with Obi-Wan a ghostly blue spot. 

Ahsoka worked harder.

Just as it had with Obi-Wan, her Imprinting with Anakin faded to its magnetic base. She ended it completely with a snap!

Now all that was left was to gather her strength and remain in the Force to observe two of its consummate users end their own connection.

Rex's presence pinged upon her awareness and she whirled. There he was, grinning, shaking his head in wonder, and then he saw what she was doing. He gave a jaunty thumbs up and continued down the companionway with a crew member unknown to her, back to laughing at some joke or other.

Ahsoka, puzzled, turned back to her Jedi friends. Rex's interloping must have jarred their concentration or perhaps they came to a natural climax. They fit together like two opposing spoons, Obi-Wan's forehead on Anakin's collarbone and Anakin's real arm around his friend's back. They one-arm hugged each other before parting with a hearty laugh. 

She bowed as if nothing had changed between them, and perhaps it had not, where it counted. 

IOIOIOIOIO

An outside observer would have noted that Days One and Two of Ahsoka's voyage contained momentous and empowering events in her life. Day Three passed smoothly, but Day Four presented a stumbling block. 

IOIOIOIOIO

The atmosphere on the sub alternated between warm and warmer as the crew repaired, replaced and resoldered elements of the ventilation system. Her passengers could hear clangs and muffled curses at all hours as techs labored to steady the vital mechanism. Interrupted sleep made crankiness inevitable.

The Nautch's narrow walkways seemed perfect for beings bumping into each other as they disagreed about important matters. Obi-Wan popped up where she did not expect him as Bo sweated through cabin fever and carried her discussion with Ahsoka into the corridor. He hovered around Ahsoka when he overheard the tone of Bo's voice.

"I make mistakes, but not wanting to be Duchess wasn't one of them. Carlac was one and not killing Maul and Savage Opress when Pre and I had them in our power was another. The consequences made me more cautious. So, Ahsoka and, and Obi-Wan, my Jedi pal listening in, let's be clear: If Ahsoka joins us, I will not tolerate velleity." 

She turned to Ahsoka as she shut out Obi-Wan. "Follow the Resol'nare wholeheartedly to the best of your ability and that's enough to live Mandalorian. We Mandalorians tolerate tolerance to a certain degree and if you don't want to join us, that's all right with us. We don't need you to survive."

Ahsoka's face took on that faraway look as if she were seeing the future and it made Bo mad. She raised a hand, forefinger poised to make a point. "You don't need us, either."

Obi-Wan curled his grip around his lightsaber as Bo wondered if the Jedi protecting his own would cost her a finger. She didn't think Obi-Wan would do that, but then Satine had known him much better than she did.

He passed by them with a polite excuse me and continued on his unknowable errand.

IOIOIOIOIO

Day Five presented Ahsoka vaulting over the stumbling block with renewed commitment. "I'm ramikadyc," she told Bo after looking up battle ready on Bo's padd.

"A fair start, ner vod," Bo responded. 

IOIOIOIOIO

Day Six ended with gossip.

"So then she blatted, 'Why are you hiding this? I am not smart the way that Satine was about feelings, but even I can see how things are with you two --- '"

Obi-Wan leaned back his head with a thunk. Anakin allowed him to vent because really, two more days aboard a sub with faulty air conditioning, no portholes or outside entertainment made him yearn for Padmé's tender embraces as they traded confidences at the end of each day. "So what did Kryze say next?"

"Right after I declared, 'You Mandalorians are different than us. You don't know what you're asking', she asked, 'Different, how? We have rules! Well, more or less. Sometimes. We try to live up to the Six Resolutions just like you try to live up to your Code, don't tell me that we're different where it counts --- '"

"You can't ask her to understand being Jedi, Obi-Wan. Leave it alone unless you want to distress an ally. Bo-Katan is crammed into a metal hot box with a relative stranger. Think about it."

"What better way to determine strengths and weaknesses? Wouldn't you want those circumstances to force you to grow closer to a being you'll soon depend upon to safeguard your very life?"

Anakin had learned from Obi-Wan to parse any questions put his way. Want meant don't already have. He smiled at the thought. "No," he said. 

"You're impossible."

Anakin craned his head around to see Obi-Wan, but lying down on a bunk shoehorned into a converted ready room wasn't as comfortable as anyone might think. He sat up and pulled at the neck of his sleep shift as he changed the subject.

Obi-Wan owned the height advantage when it came to the jury rigged quarters for four human Standard-sized beings. Each set of bunks was temporarily tethered at kitty corners to the angled bulkhead. By unspoken agreement, they had tossed their gear onto the top bunks. Anakin, being taller, had to lean forward so as not to bonk his head against his top bunk's rim again while conversing earnestly with Obi-Wan about a recently revived subject. Obi-Wan had been sprawling against the back of his sleep space with his tunic loosened, boots off and bare feet dangling, but the topic energized him to pace on the cold deck. Whoever had done the work left in a row of chairs like orchestra seating in the Galaxies Opera House. 

The rows of bolt heads showing where the rest of the seats had been removed presented studs to stumble over, which they both had more than once as days wore on. Anakin attributed their clumsiness to sleep deprivation and occasional juddering natural to an underwater transport.

"Even if Satine were here with me, I would not renew intimacy with her." Obi-Wan looked down and then away, staring at something a thousand meters off. "Not again."

Never again with anyone echoed between them.  

Anakin could not comprehend this. To give up on any aspect of life was completely unlike Obi-Wan; why, Obi-Wan persevered with Alpha on Rattatak, surviving all the Sith-damned talon marks that the Sith-damned torture mask could inflict. He had survived Qui-Gon's death in his arms, he had survived any number of things that Anakin knew he would never disclose, horrid things from a Force which, frankly, had a special, in-depth focus on the man. Studying Obi-Wan's aura, divining the river rock upon which Anakin's inner storms had always dashed their fury into sweet release, Anakin Sensed that Obi-Wan drew nearer and nearer to the Force as his life coursed along.

And that meant he grew farther and farther away from Anakin.  

Which could not be. 

He had to do something right now to stop it.

"Obi-Wan, you're exhausted. Come to bed." Anakin scooted to the farthest edge of his bunk. 

Obi-Wan snorted, "Oh, I don't think so." He gestured to his own bunk and the covers turned down while the pillow fluffed.

There was no way this was a good thing.

Anakin fretted about the unprecedented frivolous Force usage by Obi-Wan until the third chime of the night designated some boat thing and then he gave up. He would think about it tomorrow. He drifted off to slumber and then drifted back, considering ways to claim his Master forever, chiding himself for attachment all the while. Chiding didn't help. Remembering how it felt to sever Ahsoka and Obi-Wan from Imprinting did. What came next must be more subtle than Imprinting, more symbolic, maybe physical?

I, I just want him around all the time for when I need him. It won't be like slave implants or branding because it can't be.

Anakin lay on his stomach, squirming. What a day. I wonder what Padmé is doing now. What time is it on Coruscant? Karking bunk, if they let me design one, it would have repulsors for comfort.  

He turned onto his side, unnerved by the utter stillness that was his Master sleeping. What do I want, then, or more to the point, how can I secure it? The hum of the intermittent fan was nearly inaudible, so he focused on discerning the sound to calm himself, throwing out his senses in the inky darkness.

Hagwa yatuka! Ink like Bo-Katan's mythosaur? That's doable. He can pick the design we share, I don't give a traang because the idea will have been mine and that's what truly matters. After impersonating tatted Hardeen for days on end, us getting inked together won't bother him. Mirialan and Mikkian Jedi are tatted so there's precedence, one of his favorite words.

Anakin smiled, then slept the night through. The next morning he remembered that Dex said his elaborate tats took weeks to finish after waiting weeks to get an appointment with his favorite artist. 

Anakin put aside the notion. He would come up with another, better, faster plan to maintain contact with Master, he just knew it.

IOIOIOIOIO

Day Seven ended with worry along with renewed air conditioning problems.

"He'll do well, don't fret."

"Famous last words."

"Keep on and you'll grow more gray hairs."

"So what."

Feeling out the emotions behind all this, Anakin pushed gently. "I didn't Sense any such worries from you about me when I was his age."

"You were Temple-trained. You were ... you."  A breath. "He's not you, he's been fairly sheltered, and --- "

"He's got Satine's ballsiness. He'll do his job, Obi-Wan." But Satine was killed for doing her job, according to her lights. Anakin raced on, Sensing the man's need to disperse his cyar'ika's shadow. "He's got his own strength, a good mind, and he's not alone. He'll have counselors when he's acknowledged Duke. He'll be all right." Long silence. Sleep was calling when Anakin heard a mutter. His eyelids heavy and his thoughts yearning for evening meditation, he asked softly, "What?"

"Let's meditate, if we can in this stuffy place."

"Yes, Master."

They had not been so attuned since living together at the Temple. That time around the campfire on Utapau didn't, didn't count. Anakin found the bulkhead a profound anchor for his evening meditation: flat, metallic, a pattern of rivets that drew his gaze inward.  Surfacing to mundane reality after a timeless time, he asked about an issue that had puzzled him. "Obi-Wan, why didn't you take on another Padawan after me? Should I believe you when you claimed you would early in our voyage?"

A rustle, the sound of a sigh. "I haven't given it much serious thought. Life is different now, with the war and me sitting on the Council. Besides, Padawans are needed at Temple to teach Initiates." In the Force, Obi-Wan was a smooth pond, deep, still and quiet, so what came next surprised Anakin. "We generals really have no business endangering our young ones. Ahsoka is well out of it."

"She protected me as much as I protected her! I could have used her help on Alliga!"

"But you have done all right without her, have you not." This was the voice of a Councilmember, not so much asking a question as making a statement. "You have me as a teammate as we had each other before Ahsoka joined your life, well, our lives." The broad ocean of their past buoyed them and then a ripple spoiled the moment.

Anakin's mouth twisted, drowsiness forgotten. "Master Yoda tested me with Ahsoka, I'm beginning to think, not that anyone on the Council would tell me."

"Anakin, we've been over this ground so many times --- "

"And you've got Korkie now to think about."

Anakin had no idea where this sprang from. The comment made him sound jealous, and he wasn't, he wasn't.

Obi-Wan was not as averse as before the war to such personal talk, another unforeseen change, but Anakin found that he liked this change better. He was still unprepared for what Obi-Wan said next, so softly as to be almost inaudible. "But you were my first little one."

"Neither of us were exactly little when we entered your life --- oh, forget it.  I'm rambling."  The peace from his meditation hovered just out of reach, and wasn't that the whole point of meditation? "Too much time to think on this sub," he grunted.  

"Have it your own way." Anakin pictured Obi-Wan's lips in pouting position as the man turned his back to tune out his perceptive ex-Padawan. "I'm going to sleep. Shut up, Anakin."

Feelings crowded one upon the other into the converted Jedi quarters: amusement over Obi-Wan's disturbed equanimity mixed with twinges of envy. Padmé and I must wait until the war is over before having what you already have, my Master. Anakin punched his flat pillow, making no dent. He dispersed the feelings to the Force.  

"Shutting up now, High Kenobi General Master, sir." Or should we wait? I want to talk with her about it when I see her in person.  He dozed, smiling.

The Nautch sped on.

IOIOIOIOIO

Day Eight began with a joke on himself that Korkie broadcast at the conclusion of what he termed a power breakfast: if it looks like a duke, quacks like a duke, swims like a duke, then it's a duke. 

The reactions around the table ranged from strenuous eye rolls to chortles and then the undersea quake took all their attention.

But that's another story.

IOIOIOIOIO

The End.

IOIOIOIOIO

Concluding A/N: Profound thanks to +mia mesharad of TFN and +citizenjess of LiveJournal for details re the Mandalore timeline and getting tattooed respectively.
 



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